Laws maintain order
Canada is governed by a system of laws. These laws are created by governments that are chosen by the people. Laws in Canada apply to all people, including the police, judges, political leaders and those who work for the government.
The main reason Canada has laws is to keep society well ordered, to make sure there is a peaceful way to settle disputes and to express the values and beliefs of Canadian society.
In Canada, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Equality under law
We call our system of laws the justice system. Everyone in Canada, whether they are a citizen or a permanent resident, is equal under the justice system. In Canada, women can have the same jobs as men and all the same responsibilities. People in Canada are not given better jobs because of their name, the amount of money they have, their social class or their sex.
Some important laws that may apply to your family:
- All children aged six to 16 must receive some form of education.
- Depending on which part of Canada you live in, you must be either 18 or 19 years old to buy or drink alcohol.
- It is against the law to use, buy or sell addictive drugs such as marijuana, heroin or cocaine.
- It is against the law to make any kind of sexual remarks or advances if the other person is not receptive.
- It is against the law to hit anyone, including your spouse or children, either in the home or in public.
What happens if you do not obey the law?
If you break a law in Canada and the justice system finds you guilty, there will be consequences. For minor offences such as theft and dangerous driving, you may have to pay fines, do community service and spend a short time in prison. For more major offences, such as hurting someone, you may go to prison for a longer time. For serious offences, such as killing someone, you may go to prison for life.
Your duties under the law
Every resident of Canada must report to the police any crimes that they know about or that they see happen. Canadian residents may also be asked to help the criminal justice system by sitting on a jury. To sit on a jury, you must be a resident of the province where the court case is being heard and also be at least 18 years of age. Rules about juries vary among provinces and territories.